"Lost sheep" of the British Royal Family

HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten visited Palmerston in February, 1971, arriving on the Royal Yacht Britannia after first calling in at Rarotonga. According to one report, their path through the palms on Palmerston was carpeted with cloth. The Duke  also invited the whole island to tea on board Britannia. The Islanders have had a special affection for the Crown since Queen Victoria granted a lease to founding father, William Marsters at the end of the 19th century...but since this visit, they've also claimed a direct link to British Royal Family.

While I can't verify any link independently, the stories I've been told are fascinating and the purpose of this page is to share them with you and leave you to make up your own mind. 

According to the late Yolande Browne great great granddaugher of William Marsters by his first wife, the Royal visitors were astonished when they saw a photo of the patriarch. She told me...

"They went into his house and saw his photo on the wall. They stood in front of the photo and took three steps back and bowed to the photo and said this is our 'lost sheep'."

It may be they were joking about the bearded appearance being similar to that of other royals but we'll never know! ​​Lord Mountbatten is also supposed to have confided that there was a Marsters in his own family and the Duke is said to have acknowledged "a probable connection".

In a 1998 letter from Palmerston, the Rev. Bill Marsters adds a further dimension to the story. Referring to William's mother, Ann Armstrong, he says Lord Mountbatten told him Armstrong was a name which originated with the Royal Family of Scotland. "So according to him", he writes, "Ann Armstrong my ancestor was of Royal blood". Bill has also done his own research and says he's discovered that Ann's ancestors were related to King James VI of Scotland (King James I of England)

A Duke's Legacy

Prince Philip's visit lives on in daily life on Palmerston. While he was on the island, he swam in a sea pool which is now called 'The Duke's Pool' (and also known as Vai Eli). I'm also told he had a go at eating paw paw (papaya) with his fingers and thoroughly enjoyed the fruit. Unfortunately, no photos exist of what I'm sure must have been an entertaining experience! The Islanders also celebrate with a public holiday called "Duke's Day" each 28 February. The visit to the Cook Islands was also commemorated with a set of stamps issued by the government.

Stamp marking 1971 royal visit to the Cook Islands

A memory honoured

When the Duke of Edinburgh died in April, 2021 all the islanders spent the day indoors as a mark of respect for him and the Royal Family. The Union Flag and the Royal Navy Ensign were also flown at half mast


Ned Marsters on board Britannia

The Royal Yacht

An enduring memory

David Smith from England spent six of his 24 years in the Royal Navy serving on board the Royal Yacht Britannia and vividly recalls the day they called in at Palmerston, It was 4th February, 1977 and Britannia was on a round the world trip for the Queen's silver jubilee....

"We called in for about 8 hours on passage from Rarotonga to East Samoa. We embarked Ned Marsters and many of the islanders who we bartered with for their goods. I remember they primarily wanted things such as soap and biros !! Ned came on board to have tea with the Admiral and left a happy man with a large bag of goodies, the contents of which I never did find out"

Ned Marsters is pictured with Admiral Hugh Janion, Flag Officer Royal Yachts who masterminded the silver jubilee trip. The Admiral died in 1994 and Ned in 1999. I am indebted to David for sending me a copy of the photo from his personal album.

An enduring memory of the day for David are two "handbags" made by Palmerston islanders from coconuts. He exchanged several bars of soap and some chocolate for them. And he tells me they hang to this day on his study wall.


When Elizabeth II was crowned Queen in 1953, one of William's sons was invited to attend the coronation in London. The son was very old by then, so his son (William's grandson) took the invite. But he forgot to tell the Palace that he was attending instead of his father and was refused entry

Photo: Cecil Beaton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    The content of the pages headed "Marsters of Palmerston" are the product of original research by the website author and all rights are reserved. The author is a journalist, not an academic but you are welcome to use this material in academic research with the suggested citation "John Roberts, author of". Please contact the author about use for any other purpose including reuse on another website or social media. Sources acknowledged here


The Marsters Family Saga Begins

William Marsters : The Man

Wlliams's Linquistic Legacy

William's fight for ownership of Palmerston